How to Survive: A Video Game Primer For Killing Zombies

by Marshal Rosenthal

It’s a post apocalyptic world and there are zombies. You’ve made it off of the mainland and have arrived onto an island off the coast of Colombia. It’s desolate but not devoid of life — or unlife either. But unlike other video games based on action only, here you must also eat food, drink water and get sleep on a regular basis in order to function (i.e., survive). If you don’t have these, you will die. And because mother taught us to ask when we don’t know what to do, we’ll turn to the game’s production coordinator, Michael Greening, who’s just paused after popping a zombie’s head open with an arrow at short range.

Man Cave Daily
What the purpose of the online gaming manual?

Using the manual to help you survive is why reading is fundamental.

Using the manual to help you survive is why reading is fundamental. (Photo: Man Cave Daily)

Michael Greening
It’s called “How to Survive” and was written by a man named Kovac you’ll end up being happy to meet. The manual will teach you what you’ll need to know to survive on the island.

Man Cave Daily
So what happens?

Michael Greening
There are zombies all around so what do you think? Okay, if you’re a single player you can pick between a story mode and challenge modes which has you doing (or trying to do) specific things. There’s three characters to choose from, each with their own skill set and abilities, special attacks and stylized looks. This means the game plays differently depending on who you decide to be. Take Kenji (spelling?), he’s tough and likes to shoot a lot and can shoot pretty accurately if he doesn’t get rattled and has lots of ammo on hand.

Man Cave Daily
The game starts…

Same old, same old.

Same old, same old. (Photo: 505 Games)

Michael Greening
With your character waking up on an island — it’s a top-down view reminiscent of dungeon-crawlers of the ’80s and ’90s like Baldur’s Gate — with nothing but your two hands. To survive you’ll need to find equipment to use, food to eat, water to drink. And you always have to be on your guard because the zombies are coming to eat you!

Man Cave Daily
So you’re all alone?

Michael Greening
No, there are non-playable characters in the story mode that you’ll hook up with and go out on missions with. And Kovac’s around too .

Man Cave Daily
You mentioned food and water?

Nothing like being surrounded by Zombies to make for a good night's sleep.

Nothing like being surrounded by Zombies to make for a good night’s sleep. (Photo: 505 Games)

Michael Greening
Yeah, ‘cause you need to eat and drink — whether it’s having shot something and cooked the meat (raw is more of a zombie thing) or drunk from a stream while sprinting towards a safe place to take a nap. Because if your head doesn’t get filled with ZZZs (or your belly either), you’re going to start having trouble moving around or firing accurately. You’ll need to not just know how to set up a camp and make a fire, but how to make sure that where you are is going to be safe.

Man Dave Daily
Where do the weapons come from?

Michael Greening
From all over the place — there’s 5 islands in all and they’re not barren of stuff. The NPC’s will help you to get to them, but it’s up to you to avoid being chomped by the multitude of zombies out there — and there’s plenty of different types too. So you have to figure out what you can do when you run across stuff and carry what you need and discard what you don’t.

Man Cave Daily
How about an example?

Night shift -- Zombie style.

Night shift — Zombie style. (Photo: 505 Games)

Michael Greening
Sure. Grab a branch and some wire to make a bow. Sharpen some sticks with your knife to make arrows. If you kill a bird, you can take its feathers to make the arrows fly more accurately. And believe me when you’re trying for a head shot with a zombie, you want to be accurate, not just fast at shooting. And there will be times when a flashlight won’t just illuminate the dark but frighten off some of these inhuman killers too. Don’t forget to consult the map either — the sections you can see unlock as you experience them for future reference.

Man Cave Daily
It sounds kinda violent.

Michael Greening
You mean all the blood and gore and arms being chopped off, or a head? That’s what a machete’s for…and there’s plenty of dead carcasses lying around to step over too. That is not to say that the game’s focused on the violence,  it’s just there because, well, there are zombies so you can expect just so much…

Man Cave Daily
How about a hint to keep from ending up dead when you’ve just begun?

Michael Greening
You’re expecting a training mode? Just use your brain and brawn at the right time — it’s a compelling story that we’ve devised and if you follow the rules, you’re learning how to play the only way it counts: by surviving. But it doesn’t hurt to keep looking to Cofax for answers, at least when you can find him. And since his place has a lot of stuff you can pick up and use, don’t hesitate to take it.

That’s one of the things that makes the open environment of this game unique — you can build stuff and then disassemble it to make something different that might be more useful in the situation you now find yourself, like turning a long range single-action weapon into a semi-automatic for close range killing. What you will need is dictated by what is going on around you. Then it’s up to you to make the right choice as to what to do. Decisions are all a part of the game. As is killing zombies.

How to Survive is available on Steam and XBLA and will be a digital download later on for the PlayStation Network (Wii U via Nintendo eShop).

We bet the theme song's playing in your head right now.

We bet the theme song’s playing in your head right now.

Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture. Visit his website.

Mark Setrakian in exo-suit with training robot used in the time challenge featured in the premiere episode.

Mark Setrakian in exo-suit with training robot used in the time challenge featured in the premiere episode.

Marshal found the sound of the future in Christopher Tyng’s 31st Century Beat and learned how to build his own battle bot when he interviewed Sy-Fy’s Mark Setrakian in Slaughterbots: Roll Out!

More from Marshal Rosenthal

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